Please note: The information given on this page is not medical advice and should not be relied on in this way. Individuals wanting medical advice on this issue should consult a health professional.
Codeine is a prescription drug, and is part of a group of drugs known as opioids. Opioids are depressant drugs, which means they slow down the messages travelling between the brain and the rest of the body. Other opioids include opium, heroin, morphine and oxycodone.1
Codeine is used to provide relief from a number of conditions, including:
Codeine is usually swallowed and comes in different forms, including:
Codeine may also be known by a brand or trade name. Some common examples are:
There is no safe level of drug use. Use of any drug always carries some risk – even medications can produce unwanted side effects. It's important to be careful when taking any type of drug.
Codeine affects everyone differently, based on:
The most common side effects of codeine are:
If the dose is too high, the following symptoms may be experienced. If any of the following effects are experienced, an ambulance should be called straightaway by dialling triple zero (000).
Long-term effects of codeine
Regular use of codeine may eventually cause the following effects. It's best to discuss the side effects of long-term use with a medical practitioner.
Using codeine with other drugs
The effects of taking codeine with other drugs, including alcohol, prescription medications and other over-the-counter medicines, are often unpredictable.1
Codeine taken with alcohol can cause mental clouding, reduced coordination and slow breathing.1
Giving up codeine after using it for a long time is challenging because the body has to get used to functioning without it. Please seek advice from a medical professional.
Withdrawal symptoms usually start within a few hours after the last dose and become strongest between 48 and 72 hours.3 These symptoms can include:
Reducing the risks
1. Upfal, J. (2006) The Australian Drug Guide (7th Ed.) Melbourne: Black Inc.
3. Mental Health and Drug & Alcohol Office, NSW Department of Health. (2007). NSW Drug and Alcohol Withdrawal Clinical Practice Guidelines [PDF:1MB].
Last updated: 11 May 2016